Dick Meader won more than 500 games as basketball coach at both Thomas College and the University of Maine at Farmington. Meader died Sunday. Contributed photo/UMF athletics

Shortly after a moment he would have preferred to forget, T.J. Maines received something he has always remembered.

Maines, then a senior at Morse High School in Bath, was three days removed from losing to Cheverus in the 1991 Class A West quarterfinals. Maines had the chance to win the game from the free-throw line for his team, but he missed and it sent the Shipbuilders home in heartbreaking fashion.

In the mail that day was a letter addressed to Maines from Dick Meader, founder of Pine Tree Basketball Camp and former coach of the Thomas College men’s basketball team. In the letter, Meader provided words of encouragement that would give Maines a much-needed morale boost.

“I was feeling a bit down, and I got a handwritten letter from him that really put everything in perspective,” said Maines, now the athletic director at Cony High School. “That’s kind of the person he was. The world would be better if we had more people like him.”

Meader died Sunday at 76 years old. 

The gesture to Maines was the kind of thing former players and colleagues had come to expect from Meader. A titan on and off the court, Meader left a legacy that those left behind are hoping to carry on following his death. 


Meader coached college basketball in Maine for 44 years, serving as head coach at Thomas from 1971 to 1988 and at the University of Maine at Farmington from 1993 to 2020. He finished with 513 career wins, as well as inductions into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, Maine Basketball Hall of Fame and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. Thomas and UMF, where he also coached baseball for 27 years, would also induct him into their halls of fame.


A newspaper article from 1993 reports on then-new coach Dick Meader set to lead the University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball team.

Jim Bessey, a lifelong friend of Meader’s and an assistant coach under him at UMF from 2012-20, said there was some significance in the timing of Meader’s death. A lover of scenery and the outdoors, Meader always loved the fall and the changing foliage — a phenomenon that’s in full swing right now.

“He was from the country, and he really loved rural Maine. Sunsets were important to him, and the foliage really brought a smile to his face,” Bessey said. “There’s an emptiness in the sense that I’m not going to speak with him about that and do things like reminisce about old times.”

Meader’s impact, though, went well beyond what he did for Thomas and UMF at the college level. He was just as well known for running the Pine Tree Basketball Camp, which attracted some of the state’s top players from 1973 to 2011.

“That camp was a home for people,” said Maines, who later coached basketball at Thomas College himself before spending 13 seasons as head coach at Cony. “All of the top basketball players in Maine, boys and girls, went there. I can’t tell you how much those camps made you better as a player.”


University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball assistant coach Jim Bessey, right, talks to UMF head coach Dick Meader during a 2020 game in Farmington. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal file

More than 40,000 players came through Pine Tree Basketball Camps during its 38 years of operation. Meader co-led the camp alongside Dick Whitmore, Colby College’s head coach from 1970 to 2011 and the winningest Maine collegiate coach of all time with 639 victories.

Meader was the key organizer of that camp, dealing with registrations, arranging dormitories and finances. Whitmore specialized in the Xs-and-Os side of the camp, making the two a complementary pairing in teaching the game to future generations.

“He was an organizational genius, and he knew how to put all of the pieces together and make it work,” Whitmore said. “He was an unbelievable doer of things, and I handled the basketball side of things, and we had a very special relationship. … It was the most important professional relationship I ever had.”

Following Meader’s retirement in 2020, Sam Leal took over as the head coach at UMF. Leal, who played for Meader from 2010 to 2014 before being an assistant coach for several Maine college teams, jumped at the opportunity to succeed a man he called “one of the most impactful people on my life.”

Even since his retirement, Meader’s impact has still been felt by Leal, who is currently coaching seven players his predecessor recruited to the school before stepping away. Those players had an emotional meeting before practice Monday as they took time to remember their former coach, to whom Leal credited their maturity and leadership.

“Their habits and the way they carry themselves are second to none, and I think a lot of that is because of the impact Coach Meader had on them as a coach when they were first-years and sophomores,” Leal said. “It’s a great group that I’m fortunate to be able to coach, and that’s because of Coach Meader.”


Meader, Leal and UMF Athletic Director Jamie Beaudoin said, was successful as a coach because of his ability to adapt to the times. Even as the game changed over the years, Meader was always able to successfully implement new concepts and designs into his game plans.

“He was a student of the game, and he was always evolving with the game,” Beaudoin said. “At one point, you had no 3-point line, and then you add a 3-point line. It was the same thing with the shot clock. He was a student of the game, and he lived to learn and improve as a coach and improve us as players.”

Passionate about his home state and his roots, Meader made recruiting and succeeding with Maine high school players a point of emphasis in the program’s success. He knew basketball throughout the state like the back of his hand, even memorizing, as his eldest son Lance pointed out, the mascot names of every high school.

The outpouring of support in the day since his father’s passing, Lance Meader added, has been overwhelming. The former Waterville and UMF standout said that the texts, calls and emails haven’t stopped coming since those in the Maine basketball community learned of his father’s death.

“There’s just been so much from other coaches and guys I’d played with over the years as well as other close friends,” said Lance Meader, who played under his father at UMF from 1993 to 1995. “It’s really been nonstop. I think that’s just a testament to who he was as a person.”

Indeed, as a person and a coach, those in Maine who have spent time around Dick Meader have consistently called him one of the greats. His legacy, Whitmore said, is one that few in Maine basketball history — if any — can match.

“He was one of the elites,” Whitmore said. “It was a pleasure to be around him all the time. It’s an enormous loss.”

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